Corrections Works December 2013

From our Chief Executive

Chief Executive Ray Smith.

If I asked you to picture an image of Corrections what would it look like?

Would it be the image of the formidable prison wall, barred windows and razor wire? If so, I think it’s time you had another look at Corrections; you may be surprised at what you find.

For instance, did you know that most offenders are not in prison at all but are managed by probation officers out in the community? Over 35,000 people are serving sentences in the community. Of the 8,000 people in prison, the majority are serving short sentences of less than two years, and nearly all will re-enter society sometime in the future. So as you can see, while secure prisons are always going to be a priority for us, what is equally important is that offenders receive the support and rehabilitation they need to lead a crime-free life outside prison.

As this edition of Corrections Works makes clear, we are providing more and more opportunities for offenders to make crucial changes in their lives, changes that will prevent them re-offending and prevent further victims. One example of this is Out of Gate (see story on pages four and five), a new service that links prisoners to local support agencies ahead of their release. Out of Gate services are now available at all prisons.

Our photo essay (pages eight and nine) features some of the Community Work teams at work each week in towns and cities across the country. When the call goes out after an emergency, these teams are ready to respond, as in the recent floods in Whanganui.

The new construction yard at Rolleston Prison (page 15) is a practical example of how we can provide essential help by rebuilding quake-damaged houses and teach offenders new job skills at the same time. Nineteen Housing New Zealand houses are already in the yard and work has begun to refurbish them. In total, Corrections has contributed 96,000 hours of labour toward the Canterbury rebuild. I think we can be very proud of our ability to provide the infrastructure and resources to work with those in need. Not only is it a chance for offenders to upskill, but they get to give back to the community and do some good.

I wish you all a peaceful and enjoyable Christmas and New Year.

Ray Smith

Prisoners get sorted before getting out

Preparing for release: Corrections Case Manager Moe Tafili (right) and Presbyterian Support Northern Navigator Taiana Anderson work with a prisoner at Arohata Prison as part of the Out of Gate initiative.A new reintegration support service for short-serving prisoners is up and running nationwide. Out of Gate is designed to ease the stress and uncertainty of returning to the community.

Research shows that people are less likely to re-offend if they have good support in place when they are released.

Out of Gate targets offenders on sentences of two years or less, or those who have been in custody on remand for 60 days or more. Around 4,000 people are expected to use the service over the next 18 months.

Corrections has contracted five community-based providers to deliver Out of Gate (see map). ‘Navigators’ will work one-to-one with prisoners to help them access support in the community, with a focus on employment, accommodation, education and training, living skills, health/well-being, whanau, family and community links. The service might even include picking up participants the day they are released.

Presbyterian Support Northern is the provider for all three women’s prisons and was the first to launch the service on 14 October. General Manager Community Initiatives Nicola Brehaut says there’s ‘enormous value’ in providing practical help such as setting up bank accounts, linking with Work and Income and using public transport.

She says one measure of success will be whether participants felt their reintegration was easier. “Did they feel supported, did they find the transition easier than they would’ve if they’d been on their own?”

Dianne Smith, PSN’s Out of Gate Co-ordinator at Christchurch Women’s Prison, had four referrals in the first week. “All of them have high needs and most have children. All of them really want to make changes in their lives. I think they’re all hopeful.”

Equally hopeful about Out of Gate are the women at Arohata Prison in Wellington. Corrections Case Manager Moe Tafili says the prisoners she has spoken to are excited about the range of needs Out of Gate will address. “The main issues that have come out are accommodation and family, in particular their children. They want help to be able to communicate with their children and link with their whanau.”

Some of the women will need two or three sessions with their navigator before they leave. “Getting a chance to plan ahead will make all the difference when they walk out those gates.”

Out of Gate will enhance Corrections’ existing reintegrative support services and will contribute to our target of reducing re-offending by 25% by 2017.

Our providers and their allocated prisons are:

  • Presbyterian Support Northern: Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility: Arohata Prison, Christchurch Women’s Prison.
  • National Urban Maori Authority (NUMA): Northland Region Corrections Facility, Auckland Prison, Mount Eden Corrections Facility, Spring Hill Corrections Facility.
  • Goodwood Park Healthcare Group: Waikeria Prison, Tongariro/Rangipo Prison.
  • Healthcare New Zealand Ltd: Whanganui Prison, Hawke’s Bay Prison, Manawatu Prison, Rimutaka Prison.
  • CareNZ: Christchurch Men's Prison, Rolleston Prison, Otago Corrections Facility, Invercargill Prison.

Keeping each other safe

Our vision is to create a safe working environment where staff and offenders interact without violens, and to make this vision a reality.

The safety of our staff is of paramount importance for Corrections, yet last year (2011 – 2012) 13 staff were seriously assaulted by offenders. The year before that 11 staff were seriously assaulted. This is unacceptable.

Serious assaults are defined as those where a staff member had to stay overnight in hospital, or needed on-going medical help, or was sexually assaulted in any way.

Our vision is to create a safe working environment where staff and offenders interact without violence, and to make this vision a reality, in August 2013 Corrections launched Keeping Each Other Safe – the Staff Safety Plan Year One (2013 – 2014). Keeping Each Other Safe sets out five priority areas, with 38 initiatives aimed at creating a violence-free workplace for staff working in prisons and in the community.

The five priorities are:

  • visible leadership at all levels will support staff to put safety first
  • our staff will receive appropriate and on-going training to keep themselves safe in every interaction with offenders; and our selection processes will ensure that staff succeed in their work
  • effective communication will ensure the right information is available to staff when it is needed, so they can make good decisions to keep themselves, their colleagues and offenders safe
  • enhanced resources and appropriate tools will give staff more options to make safe decisions
  • improved processes will ensure that staff know exactly what to do, and empower them to make good decisions that will keep them safe.

Key staff safety initiatives

‘On-body’ cameras pilot – International research suggests that overt use of an ‘on-body’ camera can halve the number of assaults against the staff member with the camera, and there is a trend towards frontline staff using on-body cameras overseas. In addition, the recordings are useful when training and debriefing staff. In January 2014, Corrections will start a six-month trial of on-body cameras for corrections officers working in high risk areas to see if prisoners are less likely to assault staff with the cameras.

Right Track – Since the beginning of 2013, all staff in our prisons have been using a more active management approach with prisoners. In this approach, called ‘Right Track’, staff use their daily interactions with prisoners to ensure prisoners are participating in their rehabilitation plans. Right Track involved training all staff who come into contact with prisoners in the stages of motivational change, and what to say and do to help offenders at each stage. Staff have structured discussions where they share ideas and set practical goals for individual prisoners. In a review of prisoner-on-staff assaults, the chief custodial officer’s team found that the Right Track principles of good information sharing, proactively developing positive relationships with prisoners, and engaging with prisoners to motivate them towards personal change, will help to reduce assaults.

New handcuffs – We are introducing new, more secure, handcuffs for corrections officers to use when escorting prisoners off site. The new handcuffs will help to ensure the safety of the community when prisoners are transferred, or taken to court or hospital.

Safety in the community training – From late September we started training community-based staff in situational and behavioural awareness, de-escalation of angry offenders, and physical tactics to help them get out of aggressive situations. Over the next 12 months, all community-based staff, including probation officers, psychologists, and rehabilitation programme facilitators, will receive the two-day training course directly from their manager. The new training replaces the Managing Threatening Situations training, and includes additional material on situational awareness and physical self-defence.

Home visits safety for probation staff – Probation officers visit offenders in their homes around 7,000 times a month, and can encounter challenging or dangerous situations. These situations can arise due to the offender, but also from other visitors to the address, dogs, or hazards such as P-labs. Since October/November this year, a new national home visits process is making visits safer and more effective. The new process includes rules around knowing the person you are visiting, checking offender ‘alerts’ before visiting, and ensuring that the office knows where you are at all times.

Genesis of the staff safety plan

In November 2012, Corrections Chief Executive Ray Smith set up an Expert Advisory Panel on staff safety, with Howard Broad (ex-Commissioner of Police) as Chair.

In the first half of 2013, the Expert Panel engaged with over 600 staff and received over 1000 individual pieces of feedback, including from unions and non-government organisations. The Panel found it encouraging that there was much agreement from experts, staff, and from those who represent offenders. The issues identified were widely recognised as being difficult and complex, and challenging for most jurisdictions. The Panel’s primary message was the need to elevate the issue of safety across the Department under a strong anti-violence philosophy. They pointed out that to be successful, the Plan, its implementation, and the responsibility for results must be owned and undertaken by all staff.

Giving something back with community work

If you’ve ever visited a well-kept local park or marae, enjoyed a bush-walking track, or noticed that a wall of unsightly tagging has been painted over – chances are you’ve seen a community work project managed by Corrections.

Offenders serving a sentence of community work do unpaid work in the community to help make up for their crime – and the work often involves beautifying and maintaining community assets. Community work is the most common community-based sentence by a long way. This time last year, 46 percent of all community-based sentences were community work – that means Corrections is managing nearly 20,000 sentences of community work at any one time. And this translates to a lot of hours of work; last year offenders did just over three million hours of work for their communities.

Our community work supervisors don’t just check that offenders turn up and work hard. They teach offenders skills such as painting or building, and act as role models, demonstrating how to meet challenges and find good solutions. They also use motivational interviewing techniques to get offenders to think about living a better kind of life.

A judge can require an offender to do 40 – 400 hours of community work. If an offender is sentenced to 80 hours or more, a probation officer can direct them to spend up to 20 percent of the time at a Work and Living Skills course, learning skills that may help them address their offending. For example, an offender convicted of driving offences may be sent on a safe driving course, or an offender who shop-lifts because they keep running out of money may benefit from a budgeting course.

Please click on the PDF (265 KB) of the photo essay to see the printed version.

From our Minister

Hon Anne TolleyThe Government’s focus on prisoner education and rehabilitation to reduce re-offending is getting quite a bit of publicity. And that’s great, because Corrections staff are working extremely hard to keep the public safe and to make sure that released prisoners don’t create more victims of crime.

But this doesn’t take away from the fact that prisons can be volatile and dangerous places to work.

Make no mistake. Safety, of our staff and the public, is our number one priority.

And I’m pleased to say that our frontline staff are better resourced than ever before to deal with difficult situations.

Since 2009 the Government has introduced tactical exit training for 4,000 frontline prison staff, implemented training and access to pepper spray for use as a tactical option, and delivered batons, spit-hoods and stab-resistant vests for staff working in high-risk situations.

And it doesn’t stop there. We will continue to monitor staff safety and to make any necessary improvements.

For example, a six-month trial of on-body cameras will get underway at Auckland and Rimutaka Prisons in the new year.

Prison staff working in maximum and high security areas, and prison drug dog handlers, will wear the cameras to de-escalate incidents, deter assaults on staff and to gather evidence for use in court and complaints processes.

Footage will also be used to improve staff training and for debriefs following any incidents, and Corrections will assess the trial before making further decisions.

We are also making prison environments safer.

I recently announced that Auckland Prison’s maximum security wing is to be completely rebuilt at a cost of over $200 million. When complete in mid-2017 it will provide a secure, modern facility that will deliver improved mental health services. Importantly, it will also deliver a safer environment for staff, and provide better conditions for staff to work with prisoners to lower their security classification.

And while the brand new wing will be designed, built, financed and maintained under a Public Private Partnership, Corrections will continue to have full operational control for the custody and care of inmates.

I also announced that $81.3 million is being invested in upgrading five prisons to improve security and safety, and to provide better facilities for prisoner rehabilitation and training.

Major infrastructure work will begin soon at Invercargill, Whanganui and Tongariro/Rangipo Prisons, while development is already underway at Waikeria and Rolleston Prisons.

Our prisons need to be fit for purpose to deliver the best possible results.
They also need to be as safe as they can possibly be to allow our staff to do their job properly.

That is something which will remain at the forefront of everything we do.

Hon Anne Tolley

Wananga for all at Maori Focus Units

Eddie Harihari at the Maori Focus Unit.  

Eddie Harihari at the Maori Focus Unit.

Prisoners at three of Corrections’ Maori Focus Units (MFUs) have started courses through the Open Wananga, with the goal of getting all men in all five of the units involved.

Open Wananga, a subsidiary of Te Wananga o Aotearoa, specialises in free, part-time and kaitiaki-supported (support person / assessor) courses, with a strong focus on Maori educational needs.

The men at the MFUs will complete the self-learning modules at their own pace, while an Open Wânanga kaitiaki visits regularly to support them.

Prisoners can sign up for:

  • Papa Ako – Learning to Learn (Level 1)
  • Mahi Toa – National Certificate in Employment Skills (Level 1)
  • Papa Whairawa – Financial Literacy Certificate (Level 1)
  • Mauri Ora – National Certificate in Mâori Studies (Level 2).

Principal Corrections Officer Eddie Harihari says five prisoners at Waikeria Prison MFU enrolled on 1 October, with the intention of starting more groups of five on a ‘rolling’ basis.

“Once they’ve completed their initial courses, they can progress through to the 12-week Mauri Ora Level 2 programme and attain credits for NZQA. It will definitely enhance and support the men’s rehabilitation to complete these programmes,” he says.

“A key goal of Open Wananga is to provide pathways to education by overcoming barriers to learning. Therefore, Open Wananga is working collaboratively with the Mâori Focus Units to deliver quality foundation level educational programmes,” says Open Wananga Programme Manager Robert Wetere.

The involvement of the Open Wananga supports the national improvement programme that the MFUs began last year. The programme will ultimately position the units as ‘the elite environment where we reduce re-offending by 30 percent by 2017’ (5% higher than Corrections’ overall goal).

The improvement programme unifies the five MFUs and sees men at the units working through six phases including an education pathway, tikanga and te reo Maori, drug treatment/education, and training and employment opportunities. A whanau-centric approach means staff work closely with the men and their whanau to strengthen their connections and support successful reintegration. 

Regional Highlights

Read what's been happening around the country at Corrections.

Posing, bending and stretching at Arohata Prison

Volunteer yoga instructors Christine Langdon (front) and Julia Cuneen.

Volunteer yoga instructors Christine Langdon (front) and Julia Cuneen.

Friday mornings at Arohata Prison are a mix of poses, bends and stretches, mostly with intriguing animal names, for a small group of remand prisoners who attend a weekly yoga class.

Yoga instructors Christine Langdon and Julia Cuneen volunteer their time at the prison every week to teach positions such as downward facing dog, goddess pose, eagle pose, dolphin plank, fire log pose, and locust pose.

Christine says during her yoga teacher training the students had to consider how they would use their training to benefit others. That inspired her to contact Corrections to offer to teach yoga in prison. “I saw the potential for yoga to give them a new experience and assist them in some small way,” says Christine.

When Christine started a new paid job, her altruistic nature meant she had no hesitation negotiating Friday mornings off so she could continue teaching the women at Arohata.

Christine says each time she and Julia walk into the room they are walking into an unknown dynamic. “Because we teach remand prisoners, each week there are different faces, and there is a different atmosphere in the room.” They meet with subtle curiosity (most of the women have never set foot in a yoga class), apprehension and sometimes resistance.

“It’s really interesting to see the changes in the women who may have been resistant one week and complaining about doing the class, and then the next week fully participating.”

As a yoga teacher, Christine says she is having to learn faster than other yoga teachers how to ‘read the room’ and modify the class if necessary.

“If they tell me ‘we don’t want to be here,’ I tell them they have a choice; ‘you can choose how you feel and you can choose how much of the class you do,’” says Christine. “But mostly they ask a lot of questions, giggle and laugh a lot and attempt to master the new positions.”

“As remand prisoners they are going through a stressful time and yoga is a chance to relax and de-stress.”

Constructive activities, such as yoga, are provided in prisons nationwide. They vary according to the prison, and are provided by both volunteers and contracted providers. Constructive activities are important as they can help prisoners to develop pro-social attitudes, provide a good lifestyle balance and strengthen relationships. They can also contribute to the good order of the prison as they alleviate boredom and stress.